Saudi seeks to raise $2.3 bn in Yemen donor conference

Source:AFP Published: 2020/6/2 18:28:40

Saudi Arabia seeks to raise $2.3 billion from an emergency donor conference on Tuesday to support war-battered Yemen as it faces a coronavirus catastrophe in the sixth year of the kingdom's military intervention.

A man wearing a face mask walks at a market amid the COVID-19 outbreak in Sanaa, Yemen, on May 31. Photo: Xinhua

The virtual conference, which Riyadh is cohosting with the United Nations, comes as aid groups warn that the fast-spreading virus could wreak havoc after years of war and amid crippling funding shortages.

"A total of $2.3 billion is being sought to cover emergency requirements in Yemen across multiple humanitarian sectors, including medical, food and shelter assistance," a Saudi government statement said.

Britain, a leading arms supplier to Saudi Arabia, stepped in Tuesday with a new aid package for Yemen worth 160 million pounds ($200 million). "This targeted UK aid package will mean the difference between life and death for thousands of Yemenis who now also face the threat of coronavirus," UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said in a statement. "Our support will help ensure families can feed themselves and access clean water and medical care," he said.

Britain's International Development Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan said the funds aimed to provide support to at least 300,000 vulnerable people each month.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan as well as Mark Lowcock, UN under-secretary general for humanitarian affairs, were to take part in the aid conference. Lowcock has flagged a funding requirement of $2.4 billion for Yemen by the end of 2020, including $180 million to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

Saudi Arabia counts itself as a top donor to Yemen, having contributed billions of dollars in aid. But the Saudi-led coalition is also widely blamed for civilian casualties in bombing raids that campaigners say have pushed the country deeper into crisis.

A rebel spokesman dismissed the Saudi-led conference as a "silly attempt to [gloss over] their crimes," according to the Huthi-run Al-Masirah television.

The UN's Jens Laerke has warned that aid agencies are heading towards a "fiscal cliff" due to a lack of funding that threatens to shut down more than 30 key UN programs in the coming weeks.

"We are urging the donors to pledge generously," said Laerke, a spokesman with the UN's humanitarian agency OCHA. "Those who have given an indication of pledges [are urged] to actually pay early because the operation in Yemen is severely, severely underfunded."
Newspaper headline: Saudi seeks to raise $2.3b for Yemen

Posted in: MID-EAST

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